Georgia, with its increasing economic ties to the European Union, has an extraordinary secret to share with the world – the most northern tea cultivation in existence. Georgian tea, renowned for its exquisite flavour, thrives in the subtropical fields of western Georgia, specifically in the regions of Imereti and Guria. Remarkably, this tea grows further north than its Indian, Sri Lankan, or Kenyan counterparts while maintaining the same impeccable quality.
Many of Georgia’s sixty-one local tea producers are already keen to tap into the European distribution networks. Their goal is clear: to gain access to the vast and promising European markets. The synergy between the charm of Georgian tea and the eager producers’ ambitions sets the stage for a remarkable journey into the future of tea cultivation.
“We are working to enhance the quality and sustainability of our tea production and explore new possibilities. We are now on the path to expand our offerings from three to fifteen tea varieties. We also aim to obtain a bio-production certificate in 2024.”
Sergo Nikabadze, Chief Technologist at Buetea
However, this opportunity comes with the responsibility to adhere to stringent quality standards in both production and packaging.
The European Union and UNDP have stepped in to provide essential support to Georgian tea producers in blending traditional tea culture with modern technology and eco-friendly practices.
„Buetea“ is among the small tea companies dedicated to revitalizing Georgian tea traditions while adopting environment-friendly production practices and modernization. Every year, they carefully craft about 10 tons of tea and their market value hovers around GEL200,000 (approximately EUR70,000).
Nestled in the picturesque Imereti highlands, Buetea’s 55-hectare tea plantations and a modern tea processing facility showcase the company’s unwavering determination to modernize production and emerge as a player in the global tea industry.
In 2020, Buetea joined the EU and UNDP-supported Georgia’s Packaging Cluster (PMAG) and was exposed to a world of sustainable production possibilities. With the assistance of the EU and UNDP, the company successfully established a new production line dedicated to eco-friendly packaging and initiated the manufacturing of single-use, environmentally friendly tea bags crafted from second-grade tea leaves.
“In today’s modern economies, sustainable and environmentally friendly practices serve as the golden ticket to achieving business success. With the support from the European Union and UNDP, Georgian companies are equipped to seize these opportunities and embark on a transformative journey towards eco-friendly and sustainable production.”
Anna Chernyshova, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Georgia
These innovations allowed Buetea to diversify its product range, appeal to a broader consumer base, minimize waste, and pave the way for future expansion. Since 2021, the company has been exporting its high-quality tea to Germany, making the first strides towards European markets.
This success of Buetea and other small producers showcases the positive outcomes of partnerships and sustainable practices, ensuring a brighter future for Georgian businesses and the country’s economic advancement.
The EU Innovative Action for Private Sector Competitiveness in Georgia is an EU-funded initiative, boasting an investment of EUR5.7 million. This initiative is carried out in partnership with UNDP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with Georgia’s public and private sectors. It aims to promote entrepreneurship, enhance legislative frameworks, provide better access to finance, and strengthen cooperation with EU Member States.
This story has been produced with the assistance of the European Union and UNDP. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU and UNDP.
By SOPHIE TCHITCHINADZE, Communications Analyst for UNDP Georgia